NXT TakeOver : New York

Barclays Center

Brooklyn, NY

WWE Network

War Raiders Def. Aleister Black & Ricochet—NXT Tag Team Championship

Two of the best tag teams in the world right now and man did they kick off WWE’s WrestleMania weekend in spectacular fashion. A match that started slowly with mutual respect between both duos soon broke down into the match we all expected. The teams paired off for the most part with Rowe and Black have some awesome strike exchanges and Hanson and Ricochet attempting to out-flip the other. The crowd were molten throughout the whole match and when Ricochet performed a corkscrew Space Flying Tiger Drop I thought the roof was going to blow off the Barclays Centre. The War Raiders retained their titles after a Fallout on Ricochet following a series of believable nearfall for both teams. After the bout Black and Ricochet got to have their moment in the ring and bid adieu to NXT. ****½

Velveteen Dream Def. Matt Riddle—NXT North American Championship

I think this is the match where the Velveteen Dream aura finally wore off for me. He had the cool entrance dressed as the Statue of Liberty and being carried to the ring on a throne but once the bell rang it was all Riddle. The King of Bros carried this match with his aggressive wrestling and unique offense. All Dream brought to the table was some mannerisms and spots stolen from popular 80s WWF stars. Dream would roll out the Bromission into a pinfall for the victory after sustaining a ridiculous amount punishment. The wrong finish for me and this match is a clear sign that The Velveteen Dream still has long way to go to be ready for even a TakeOver main event slot ***¼

Walter Def. Pete Dunne—WWE UK Championship

A record breaking reign that began with a match that stole the show at TakeOver: Chicago in 2017 met a fitting end on a TakeOver show in a match that almost stole the show. There was nothing complicated about this match, it was a very simple story to follow of WALTER’s superior strength against Pete Dunne’s finger manipulation. At every opportunity the champion would reach for the Austrian challengers left hand in an attempt to not only hurt his opponent but also to take away one of WALTER’s main weapons, his chops.

What really set this match apart though was the physicality. This was unlike any match you will see in WWE for the rest of this year and wouldn’t have looked out of place in mid 90s All Japan. Whether it was WALTER stomping on Dunne’s throat, WALTER chopping the champion while maintaining wrist control or Dunne grounding the challenger with a Zack Sabre Jr style submission while still working over his fingers, this was the complete anthesis of a modern day main roster match. Dunne would be the first man to kick out of WALTER’s powerbomb and the Austrian would join a select group to avoid defeat at the hands of a Bitter End. A Super Bomb from the top rope followed by a huge splash would bring the curtain down on the Bruiserweights 685 day reign as UK Champion ****1/2

Shayna Bazsler Def. Bianca Belair, Kairi Sane & Io Shirai—NXT Women’s Championship

If you read the preview on the site for this show you will know I was slightly worried that this match could be a mess. Well I need not have worried because this was as good of a Fatal Four Way match you could possibly ask for. All four women had time to showcase what makes them unique with Io Shirai especially grasping the moment to shine on what was her biggest opportunity to date. The chemistry between Io and Kairi Sane is scary good and if they are not going to featured as title contenders in NXT they should be moved to the main roster and made the featured duo of the Woman’s tag team division.

Shayna, as usual, did all she could to put her opponents over and despite tapping out Bianca Belair for the second TakeOver in succession to the Kirifuda Clutch. Belair was once again allowed to power out of it at first before finally tapping out despite her desperate clawing attempts to break the hold again. This was a result that surprised me as I’m sure it did a lot of people but if it allows the Queen of Spades to continue to run roughshod over the NXT women’s division then I am all for it ****

Johnny Gargano Defeats Adam Cole2 Out Of 3 Falls NXT Championship

To use a football cliche, this was the epitome of a match of two halves. While the first 20 minutes featured 2 falls, this match really didn’t kick off until the third fall began and the last 20 minutes of the match were truly spectacular. If Gargano wearing Ironman-themed attire wasn’t a giveaway that this match was going long, the slow motion action in the first two falls surely was. The  story was that these guys had faced off so many times and were so familiar with each other that they had counters to their counters counters. And while that story is fine, watching it play over 20 minutes when 7 would have sufficed and featuring two falls when the match would have benefitted from being a regular match was ultimately frustrating.

Cole took the lead following a Last Shot (shining wizard to the back of the head) around the 14 minute mark and Gargano evened the score 5 minutes later via the Garga-No-Escape. As soon as the third fall began the pace of the match picked up this became the match I expected it to be from the off. Both men threw all their best shots at the other and the crowd was far beyond the edge of their seats, they were frenzied watching the match unfold.

Cole would use the rarely seen Panama Sunrise for one of the best nearfalls of the year so far and it was a second Panama Sunrise attempt that would lead to the end of the match. Gargano would block the Panama Sunrise and lock in the Garga-No-Escape only for Roderick Strong to appear and distract the referee. A hectic couple of minutes would see Gargano survive a Total Elimination from Fish & O’Reilly and another Last Shot before one more time the Garga-No-Escape would prove inescapable and Johnny Gargano is finally the NXT Champion.

A fans who booed Johnny Wrestling during the introductions for the match had been won over by the end, and Johnny TakeOver had once again stolen the show. A celebration with his wife Candace LaRae and their family in the crowd was followed by Tomasso Ciampa, neckbrace and all, greeting his former rival and successor as NXT Champion at the entrance for the feelgood ending that surely nobody expected ****¾